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Israel smitten by the Philistines, ver. 1, 2.
They bring the ark into the camp,
which affrights the Philistines, ver. 3 - 9.
Israel beaten and the ark taken, ver. 10, 11.
The news brought to Shiloh and the death of Eli, ver. 12 - 18.
The travail and death of his daughter - in - law, 19 - 22.
1: The word - That is, the word of the Lord revealed to Samuel,
and by him to the people. A word of command, that all Israel should go
forth to fight with the Philistines, as the following words explain it,
that they might he first humbled and punished for their sins, and so
prepared for deliverance. Went out - To meet the Philistines, who
having by this time recruited themselves after their loss by Samson,
and perceiving an eminent prophet arising among them, by whom they were
likely to be united, and assisted, thought fit to suppress them in the
beginning of their hopes.
3: Wherefore, &c. - This was strange blindness, that when there was
so great a corruption in their worship and manners, they could not see
sufficient reason why God should suffer them to fall by their enemies.
The ark - That great pledge of God's presence and help, by whose conduct
our ancestors obtained success. Instead of humbling themselves for, and
purging themselves from their sins, for which God was displeased with them,
they take an easier and cheaper course, and put their trust in their
ceremonial observances, not doubting but the very presence of the ark would
give them the victory.
4: Bring the ark - This they should not have done without asking
counsel of God.
5: Shouted - From their great joy and confidence of success.
So formal Christians triumph in external privileges and performances:
as if the ark in the camp would bring them to heaven, tho' the world
and the flesh reign in the heart.
7: Heretofore - Not in our times; for the fore - mentioned removals of
the ark were before it came to Shiloh.
8: Wo, &c. - They secretly confess the Lord to be greater than their
gods, and yet presume to oppose him. Wilderness - They mention the
wilderness, not as if all the plagues of the Egyptians came upon them in
the wilderness, but because the last and sorest of all, which is therefore
put for all, the destruction of Pharaoh and all his host, happened in
the wilderness, namely, in the Red - sea, which having the wilderness on both
sides of it, may well be said to be in the wilderness. Altho' it is not
strange if these Heathens did mistake some circumstance in relation of the
Israelitish affairs, especially some hundreds of years after they were
10: Tent - To his habitation, called by the ancient name of his
tent. There fell - Before, they lost but four thousand, now in the
presence of the ark, thirty thousand, to teach them that the ark and
ordinances of God, were never designed as a refuge to impenitent sinners,
but only for the comfort of those that repent.
11: The ark - Which God justly and wisely permitted, to punish the
Israelites for their profanation of it; that by taking away the
pretences of their foolish confidence, he might more deeply humble them,
and bring them to true - repentance: and that the Philistines might by
this means he more effectually convinced of God's almighty power, and of
their own, and the impotency of their gods, and so a stop put to their
triumphs and rage against the poor Israelites. Thus as God was no loser
by this event, so the Philistines were no gainers by it; and Israel,
all things considered, received more good than hurt by it. If Eli had
done his duty, and put them from the priesthood, they might have lived,
tho' in disgrace. But now God takes the work into his own hands, and chases
them out of the world by the sword of the Philistines.
13: The ark - Whereby he discovered a public and generous spirit, and
a fervent zeal for God, and for his honour, which he preferred before all
his natural affections, not regarding his own children in comparison of the
ark, tho' otherwise he was a most indulgent father. And well they might,
for beside that this was a calamity to all Israel, it was a particular
loss to Shiloh; for the ark never returned thither. Their candlestick
was removed out of its place, and the city sunk and came to nothing.
18: He fell - Being so oppressed with grief and astonishment, that
he had no strength left to support him. The gate - The gate of the city,
which was most convenient for the speedy understanding of all occurrences.
Old - Old, and therefore weak and apt to fall; heavy, and therefore
his fall more dangerous. So fell the high - priest and judge of Israel!
So fell his heavy head, when he had lived within two of an hundred years!
So fell the crown from his head, when he had judged Israel forty years:
thus did his sun set under a cloud. Thus was the wickedness of those sons
of his, whom he had indulged, his ruin. Thus does God sometimes set marks
of his displeasure on good men, that others may hear and fear. Yet we must
observe, it was the loss of the ark that was his death, and not the
slaughter of his sons. He says in effect, Let me fall with the ark!
Who can live, when the ordinances of God are removed?
Farewell all in this world, even Life itself, if the ark be gone!
20: Fear not - Indeed the sorrows of her travail would have been
forgotten, for joy that a child was born into the world. But what is
that joy to one that feels herself dying? None but spiritual joy will stand
us in stead then. Death admits not the relish of any earthly joy: it is
then all flat and tasteless. What is it to one that is lamenting the
loss of the ark? What can give us pleasure, if we want God's word and
ordinances? Especially if we want the comfort of his gracious presence,
and the light of his countenance?
21: I - chabod - Where is the glory? The glory - That is, the
glorious type and assurance of God's presence, the ark, which is often
called God's glory, and which wast the great safeguard and ornament of
Israel, which they could glory in above all other nations.
22: The ark - This is repeated to shew, her piety, and that the
public loss lay heavier upon her spirit, than her personal or domestic